Land disputes at international borders are not uncommon. The land dispute between India and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) has been given much attention since the Partition of India in 1947. The Radcliffe line caused unrest to the parties involved. However, a political resolution of the issue was tried by the end of the year 1958, when the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Pakistani counterpart Feroz Khan Noon signed an agreement. But the historical political antagonism prevalent between the two nations prevented any further progress in the resolution of the issue.
However, after India’s assistance in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, the relationship between the two countries began on a positive note. In 1974, the then Indian Premier Indira Gandhi signed the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But political issues on the Indian side, while the unexpected assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 and the apathetic military rule in Bangladesh dampened and delayed any resolution of the land boundaries between the two nations.
Another important issue still in murky waters is river Teesta’s water share allocation agreement between India and Bangladesh. River Teesta, rightly called the lifeline of Sikkim, flows through the entire length of Sikkim and provides water to both Sikkim and the North of West Bengal before it flows into the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh. As the water flows through a major region in West Bengal, Bangladesh is vulnerable to its next door neighbour for Teesta’s water.
An unplanned water sharing agreement was attained between India and Bangladesh in 1983. This agreement ensured an allocation of 39% and 36% of the water flow to India and Bangladesh respectively. But in 1996, the Ganga Water Sharing Treaty, signed between India and Bangladesh, proved to be a loss of valuable water resource on West Bengal’s side as excessive water usage by Bihar and Uttar Pradesh could not be controlled by a formal agreement. This is what made Mamata Banerjee, the current Chief Minister of West Bengal, wary and hence, postpone the signing of the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty in 2011.
The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, who is Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s daughter, after several years has slowly helped develop Bangladesh’s positive relationship with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with his Act East policy, has now made an important move towards the resolution of the above-said issues. This is an important step towards India’s international diplomatic ties.
However, Mamata Bannerjee, who has strongly been vocal against the PM, has now come to terms with him regarding the bilateral ties with Bangladesh. This is mainly because of the upcoming 2016 elections in West Bengal and the role BJP might play in the victory/loss of Trinamool Congress in the state.
PM Narendra Modi has brought a lot of attention to his current move with Bangladesh. 22 bilateral agreements were signed between India and Bangladesh. Of these, a major focus has been on trade and security.
The new ratifications to the Land Boundary Agreement seeks to resolve the confusion regarding demarcating Bangladesh’s border, as it falls in some areas of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam. This may mean an exchange of close to 10, 000 acres of land between the two nations. It is also very clear that the Teesta water sharing issue has not been resolved yet.
The current political move at the centre may ensure peace with India’s younger sibling nation, Bangladesh.